Question: Is It OK To Put Duct Tape Over A Disruptive Student's Mouth?

One substitute teacher in Lafayette, LA did just that, and now she's facing charges of battery. What do you think?

What do you do if you're an elementary school teacher, and a student will not stop disrupting your class? 

The days when such a student could face a paddling or a dunce cap are long gone. 

But one substitute teacher in Lafayette, LA used an approach that got her in trouble with the parent of a disruptive student, and got her chewed out by school administrators: she put duct tape over the student's mouth. According to the student's mom, he was so upset over the incident that he didn't discuss it for a week, and doesn't want to return to school. And now the mom is seeking criminal battery charges. 

As a former student who had, um, issues with voicing opinions in class even when the teacher was not seeking opinions, I can sympathize with the kid. It's not always easy to contain yourself in the midst of a hyper-stimulating environment, especially when you're just learning those skills. And it's very embarrassing to have the teacher tape your mouth shut. I would have wanted to crawl into a hole.

As the father of five, however, I'm not sure I disagree with the teacher's approach. If the boy is not being respectful, if he's not shutting up when he's told repeatedly to do so, if he's taking learning time away from the class, then what? Send him to the principal's office? Put him in a corner? 

As the spouse of a teacher, I hear a lot of stories about kids who don't always behave appropriately, and how little teachers can do these days to prevent such behavior. Many parents these days do seem to hold the teacher, rather than the student, responsible for the behaviors (and grades) of their offspring. 

Perhaps duct taping his mouth is not the most elegant of solutions. It did no physical damage, at least none that was reported. It certainly caused him some serious social discomfort - whether that is ultimately a good thing is, I suppose, the question here. 

Personally, I think the teacher acted a little harshly. Fourth grade kids are sensitive creatures, and they're learning what is ok and what is not. Maybe stand the kid up in front of the class and make him sing the National Anthem. Or recite a poem. Or have him get up and try to teach. But I can also sympathize with the teacher, who was having her job highjacked by an uncooperative kid who wanted to steal the attention of her class. I have certainly been tempted to duct tape my kids' mouths at one point or another. 

Do you think the teacher did the right thing? Tell us in the comments. 

Ken F September 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
In the Fouth grade I was in a class of 42 students. The teacher had to be in her late 50's. We never have any problems in the class. The reason was becasue we had one thing lacking in every class room today - discipline. In those days a disruptive studnet was sent to the principal's office that that was that. And the last thing I ever wanted was for my parents to find out I was in trouble at school, becasue it they did find out, then I'd be in REAL big trouble. Now a days a student gets in trouble at school and the parents are likely to send in their lawyers to sue the school.
Jed September 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM
SURE! If a kid is SO UNRULY that he/she/it won't behave - duct tape them to a bench (AWAY from classes) or to a flagpole --- after all, the kid IS ASSAULTING the ears of the teacher and ALL the little darlings in the class with the unruly behavior and yelling. It's time kids AND their parents took responsibility for these brats behavior and not expect teachers to "take it" just "because".
Adam Henry September 25, 2012 at 06:23 AM
What ever happened to sending the unruly student to detention? Or to the Dean's office? If it truly rises to the level of requiring punishment, how about suspending the student? Only once in my school career did I ever see a teacher lay hands on a student, and that teacher no longer had a job afterward. Duct tape shows that the teacher was even more out of control than the unruly student.
Sauc September 27, 2012 at 08:14 PM
teacherw/outaclassroom October 09, 2012 at 02:36 AM
As a teacher, I understand the frustration and feelings of no other options (even if there really are other options), but it was indeed a very wrong decision, mostly because of the various reasons others have said, such as potential physical danger (asthma, etc), and the scarring of a kid's psyche (although I do have to efend the poor teacher's scarred psyche as well). That being said, the real problesm are: 1) lack of good parenting which should teach a 4th grader how to behave away from home; 2) what appears to be lack of training for the substitute, which rarely occurs, in handling such incidences without worrying how the administration will view your job as a substitute, and whether sending the student to the principal will be seen as poor classroom management, costing you future sub assignments; and 3), where was the administration? Was the substitute told to send kids down if she had problems? Or advised of a buddy-teacher to send miscreants to visit? I think there is a great deal of shame and blame to go around in this incident. I do NOT think the substitue should be banned from teaching; rather, she should be given clearer instruction on what to do if she faces a similar situation in another classroom or at another school.


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